Huntington's Disease Articles
Huntington’s disease is a rare but debilitating genetic condition. Around middle-age, the nerve cells in your mind will begin to break down, leading to a gradual loss in cognitive function. If your parent has it, you may develop it in the future. There is no cure for it, and no way to prevent it if you have the gene that causes it. You’ll find articles detailing more about Huntington’s disease. In addition, you’ll learn how to cope if you have been diagnosed with it, as well as how to take care of a relative who has it. Huntington’s disease is terrifying, but by knowing what it is, you can slow down its effects.
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Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Huntington’s disease is a genetic condition. It is progressive and causes degeneration of the brain’s nerve cells. It has a pervasive effect on the individual's ability to function, both cognitively and in physical movement. The condition also adversely affects mental health and psychiatric conditions. Many people with Huntington’s disease begin to see signs of the condition in their thirties or forties. However, Huntington’s disease may come out earlier or later in a person’s life. If you develop Huntington’s condition before you’re twenty, it has a different name. In that case, it is called “Juvenile Huntington’s Disease.” When it develops earlier, the person will experience differences in symptoms and the disease will progress more quickly than it would if the onset took place in their later years.
Huntington’s disease includes the following symptoms. As stated previously, it affects a person’s cognitive function and impacts psychiatric disorders. It also causes their movements to change drastically. Symptoms vary among person to person and influence people in different ways. When a person is dealing with Huntington’s disease, some signs will affect them and their functionality more than others will. Some medications can help manage Huntington’s disease, but it is a progressive condition similar to Alzheimer's. You can’t prevent the degeneration of nerve cells, and it can severely impact your quality of life and eventually change the way that you function in the world.
Movement and Cognitive Functioning
Several muscular disorders are present with Huntington’s disease. The person can display involuntary movement issues. Here are some potential movement and cognitive related symptoms:
- Jerking or writhing in an involuntary way
- Muscle rigidity
- Dystonia (muscle contracting)
- Slow eye movement or abnormal eye movement
- Posture and balance difficulties
- Difficulty with walking
- Trouble with speech or difficulty swallowing
- Cognitive Disorders
Huntington’s disease can impact cognitive functioning. Here are some of the ways that this can occur:
- Executive functioning, such as organizing tasks
- Flexibility regarding behavior
- Repetitive thoughts and OCD-like symptoms
- Trouble with with impulse control, such as angry outbursts or promiscuous sexual behavior
- Difficulty finding words
- Trouble internalizing information
There are prevalent psychiatric conditions that can come along with Huntington’s disease. When you live with a chronic illness, it’s common to experience mental health issues in reaction to your condition, and this is the case with Huntington’s Disease. One of the most common mental health problems that people experience is Depression. Depression can occur in conjunction with Huntington’s disease because the brain is injured and when the mind is not functioning correctly, it can trigger the symptoms of Depression. These symptoms include:
- Irritable feelings
- Social isolation
- Excessive fatigue or low energy
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Other psychiatric conditions include OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The symptoms of OCD are:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Compulsive behaviors
See a Medical Professional
It’s imperative to see a doctor if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. There are treatments for Huntington’s Disease that can help manage the illness. A medical professional can help you understand your condition and suggest medications to help alleviate symptoms. You don’t have to suffer needlessly. It's essential to do research and find a specialist in your illness so you can get the most accurate guidance. A great place to start is making an appointment with your general practitioner. They can help guide you toward a specialist who understands Huntington’s Disease and can help you improve your quality of life. Another part of a successful treatment plan is to seek mental health counseling to help cope with your illness.
There are many ways to get mental health treatment to talk about your struggle with Huntington’s Disease as well as other mental health issues and life challenges. Online counseling is an excellent way to get support with your problems and talk about how to cope best with your illness. A certified counselor can provide you with insight into how you’re feeling and support you to maintain a balanced life. Talking to a counselor online can help you cope if you develop Huntington’s disease. Many patients with Huntington’s disease end up committing suicide, so therapy can reduce your chances of that happening. By stimulating your mind, you may also be able to live a longer life. A counselor can also help a caretaker when it comes to handling a family member with the disease. Search from the network of experienced online counselors at BetterHelp and find one that works for you.